It has been a terrible sight this season for those engaged with Galileo, watching the great horse crash through the skyscrapers and apartment blocks as he has devoured the racing capitals of Epsom and the Curragh. Now, it seems, there is only one horse in these islands with the credentials to take on the Irish behemoth. Out of the sea on Saturday comes the sole surviving colt who can save us from a season of total annihilation. Only Fantastic Light can stop Galileo from complete continental domination when they meet in Saturday's King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.
While Galileo may have been breathing fire and causing the earth to reverberate in Derbys this campaign, Godolphin, at least, have not run away. Their Classic colts may have been vanquished but now is the time to turn for final salvation to their world champion. It will be tough, but the Dubai team are at pains not to be crushed by an inferiority complex.
"Going into any big race, we always have a very positive outlook," Simon Crisford, the Godolphin racing manager, said yesterday. "We're running against a colt who has stamped himself as by far and away the best of his generation. It's the best of the three-year-olds against the best of the older generation.
"But we have never, ever gone into a race in our lives thinking we're running for second place. We simply don't operate that way. Never have done, never will do. We're going there thinking and believing we can win. It's going to be a great conflict."
It will be a race which will hurt. Both Godolphin and Galileo's Ballydoyle camp believe their representatives are best suited by a good, constant gallop. To that end, Fantastic Light is almost certain to be assisted by the services of Give The Slip as a pacemaker.
That should mean it will be a race within a race, as Aidan O'Brien, Galileo's trainer, will enter a front-runner of his own to ensure an end-to-end gallop. "I am sure there will be a good pace, but we will have something in there just to make sure," the trainer said. "All is well with Galileo and I would imagine we will leave a few in at tomorrow's five-day stage." Those in line for the donkey work are Shoal Creek, Bonnard, Ice Dancer or Pebble Island.
The identity of Galileo's rider will not become apparent until later in the week as Mick Kinane, his regular jockey, has an appeal against a suspension pending. Kinane has a noble record in the King George, having won on Belmez, King's Theatre and Montjeu, as well as finishing second twice. Having said that, Mrs Mills could have ridden Galileo at Epsom or the Curragh and the colt would still have won.
If Godolphin need a stick on which to lean, they could simply ponder their recent record in the King George. Saeed bin Suroor has trained four winners and three runners-up in the last six runnings of the contest. Lammtarra won in 1995, Swain in 1997 and 1998 and Daylami two years ago (when Nedawi was second). Pentire beat Classic Cliche in 1996 and Montjeu beat Fantastic Light last year.
The last-named was a little embarrassed in defeat then, but he is a galvanised performer this time. He remains on an upward curve on the evidence of the Prince of Wales's Stakes at the Royal meeting. He won comfortably by two and a half lengths from Kalanisi that day with good horses further behind. "He's improved," Crisford added. "He's a more mature, stronger horse now and he put up a career-best effort at Royal Ascot last time. But he's going to have to build on that now."
These are the sort of races for which Godolphin was minted. The victory in their royal blue of Sakhee, last year's Derby runner-up, at Newbury on Saturday, exhibited what they like to do with maturing horses. They will need more than statistical support before Fantastic Light can be welcomed into the winners' enclosure, but further comfort can be gained from the fact that seasoned gentlemen have won the last five King Georges.
It is all shaping up into a heaving and sweaty contest between the two great houses in racing, between the Sharks and the Jets of the turf.Reuse content